Monthly Archives: June 2019

Slides That Work

slidesAt Best Practices for Ministry, Christopher Cawthon led a session called “Better Slides for Better Worship.” With almost all churches using slides in worship in place of bulletins, making slides that work well and enhance worship is becoming more important than ever.

Simple things like how many words are on a slide, where the line breaks happen, the font and font size used and how much punctuation is included can be crucial to readability and a worshiper’s overall experience.

Switching from one slide to the next too fast or too slow can lead to confusion as well.

In recent years motion and still background of one color or shades of the same color have replaced more and more those backgrounds with images, which has led to less cluttered visuals on the screens. Single color backgrounds also convey certain moods for the songs being sung (purple for penitent, reflective music, gold for happy, joyful anthems, for instance.)

Doing run-throughs of the slides with the musicians especially is helpful to get things right on Sunday mornings, Cawthon said, and having a good connection between the pastor and the person doing the slides is beneficial, as well, he said. They both need to trust one another for things to go as smoothly as they can.

In the end, slides are a great tool to keep parishioners engaged and keep heads looking up. Things can always go wrong, of course, but with some simple plans in place errors can be minimized, and there is always forgiveness—a good lesson to remember in church.

Social Media Ministry

social mediaA session I attended at Best Practices for Ministry in Phoenix this past February was called “Ministry in the Digital Space—It’s Where the People Are.” Presenter Bruce Becker described how churches can use different digital platforms to reach certain people in your congregation.

For instance, statistics show that women use Facebook more often than men because of its relational nature. Men are more active on YouTube, and teens and young adults are more highly engaged on Instagram than other groups.

What can the church learn from this? Customization is key. If you wan to get the word out about a women’s Bible study or retreat, post the information on your church’s Facebook page. If you want to start a men’s group, put up a video inviting men of your church to join on your YouTube channel. And if you want to highlight a youth event coming up, place a picture with a message about the event on Instagram with a hashtag to spread the word.

In addition, Becker noted, social media is called SOCIAL media for a reason. That means interaction between the church and parishioners on whatever platform you are using. Using social media simply as a billboard is not effective, and just putting the same content on all platforms is not beneficial.

That is why more and more churches are employing social media ministers, if you will, to develop and differentiate the content a church launches onto its various platforms and then to respond in good time (hours, not days) to questions, comments and other feedback from parishioners. It is good practice for the last comment in a thread to be from the church so no parishioner comment is “left hanging.”

It is important for churches to prioritize which platform is getting the most traction, Becker said, and then developing strategies that put more effort from staff in those areas and putting fewer resources toward those platforms that are not performing as well.

In the end, each church is unique and no one social media plan fits all. Each church needs to decide what is right for them. But one thing is clear: social media ministry is here to stay and needs to be a part of church’s overall ministry plan.


Keeping the Church Year Alive

slinkyA session I attended at Best Practices in Ministry in Phoenix this past February was “Can Holidays Be Holy Days?” presented by Rachel Hinz. Hinz gave excellent suggestions for doing small things within the family to remind children and adults alike what season of the Church Year we are in. Some of her suggestions included:

• making your own Advent wreath out of a piece of wood with holes drilled for the candles

• moving the manger scene figures of shepherds and wise men and Mary and Joseph around the house for children to find and move closer to the manger each day of Advent

• putting the figure of Baby Jesus in the bread box all year round to remind the family that Jesus is the bread of life

• celebrating St. Nicholas Day with chocolate and coins in shoes

• changing bed time stories to Advent Reading from the Bible

• giving a gift to each other on each of the 12 days of Christmas

• make a Three Kings Cake during the Epiphany season

• make a small standing cross and then adding ribbons to match the colors of the Church Year

Hinz remarked that though the seasons of the Church Year seem to make up one big circle that we retread over and over again, it is more like a slinky, that childhood toy of old, with loops that go around and around again, but which has a beginning and an end. As each Church Year goes from Advent, to Christmas, to Epiphany, to Lent, then to the Pentecost Season, depicting the life of Christ each year, we are ever moving forward to the end of days when Christ will return. He is our Alpha and Omega, our beginning and our end. That is why we have the Church Year, to remind us that his life has meaning in our lives year in and year out, which we need never forget. There is a rhythm to our lives that the Church Year helps us to see, but there is a progression, too, as we draw closer and closer to the time when we will be with Christ forever, celebrating his life with all the saints in light.

Online Church

online churchAt the Best Practices in Ministry conference in Phoenix I attended this past February, I went to a breakout session led by TJ Winters of Concordia Lutheran in San Antonio,TX, on How to Do Online Church. It was a fascinating session that helped me to see the value of having your church service streaming online for those who are homebound or home with a sick child or just had a baby or those who live in a different area of the country but like the services at your church.

Winters started the session by putting 1 John 5:13 on the screen:

 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.

John was writing this letter from a distance, and Winters said this verse declares that we are called to be online church to those at a distance, Winters said, to let them know that they have eternal life in Christ.

There are many ways to do online church, but one way is through Facebook Live. Other avenues for streaming your worship can be found at, where watchers can chat and make comments in real-time and where the church can customize how they stream their services and put up sermon notes and schedules. People usually find out  about a church’s online services through the church’s regular website, through hashtags, through Facebook pages or through word of mouth.

There are a lot of technical components like lighting and cameras and sound systems that can make a difference in the quality of the streaming. Each church must decide for itself how in-depth it wants to go in this area of ministry and how much to invest in its outreach. For instance some churches only live stream the sermons while others stream the entire service, which can be more complex technically speaking.

For me, the impact of online cam down to two stories. One session participant said that her pastor said that if the only home watching the online service was a family whose child had cancer and could not attend because of the child’s fragile immune system, then it was doing its job. The other story came from Winters himself who said one Sunday a highly tattooed woman visited his church and said, “I’m from Virginia, but I have enjoyed your traditional services so much, I had to see for myself.” God is truly touching the lives of many through online church in unique, interesting and surprising ways.



relentlessAt a memorial service for Eugene Peterson last November, his son Lief said the pastor/author for 50 years had one main message: “God loves you. He’s on your side. He’s coming after you. He’s relentless” (“Voices,” World Magazine, February 16, 2019, 64).

What a wonderful message and legacy for Eugene Peterson to leave. The author of The Message paraphrased translation of the Bible so many of us know and love, Peterson made sure in all his writing that we know that we are loved by God. And this memorial statement by his son reveals the depth of that love.

Even if we do not feel loved, we are loved by God, no matter what. Even if we feel like everything is against us. God is on our side. I have recently found great solace in the verse, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). God is always on our team.

Then when I hear the words “He is coming for you,” I cannot help but think of the loving Father who ran toward his repentant prodigal son to wrap his arms around him. He longs to reach out to you and embrace you just as you are, faults and all, because of the forgiveness won for us through Christ.

And he is relentless. He will not let you get lost or run away. Like the Good Shepherd, he leaves the 99 sheep behind until he finds the lost one. He will not stop seeking you out and being your Savior. I think of this verse from Isaiah 35:4: Say to those who are anxious in heart: “He will come and save you!” He has and he always will.



New Models of Ministry

new modelsAs the church develops and changes in these modern times, the traditional model of a congregation has not led to new growth as it once did and many congregations in certain areas are shrinking. So new models of ministry have arisen in these once-thriving, now dwindling parishes, according to the article “Led by the Spirit” in the February 2019 Living Lutheran magazine.

One model is the anchor model. Smaller congregations have partnered with other larger congregations to work together to build ministries that accommodate members from the various locales. Some congregations in this partnership have strength in some areas that other congregations do not, and vice versa. Shared facilities and staff and Bible studies spread the work to more people so one person or space or class does not seem overloaded or underattended. This model also shows how different aspects of the Body of Christ can work together.

Another model is the adoption model. In this scenario, one church “adopts” another and they become one more fully functioning church. This model allows for members to work together in a more personal, more integrated, singular body of believers. Coming together as one builds bonds that would not exist otherwise perhaps if congregations were meeting separately. This model has has a biblical basis in that St. Paul says that we all have been adopted into the family of God (Ephesians 1:5). So this model clearly represents this concept of being forever bonded as brothers and sisters in the faith.

Yet another model getting more traction in traditional churches that are getting smaller is the redevelopment model. Churches using this model work to change the way they “do church” by reconnecting to the community around them in different ways, not relying solely on membership, but on event-based outreach to meet the specific needs of the people who are currently on their doorsteps and in the pews. This model highlights service and draws strength from the accomplishments that are made to bring hope and help and healing in small and more hands-on ways to people who are members or not.

Making the most of what God has given you in ministry is key in all these models and shows that the Church is never static, but always moving and adjusting and touching the lives of people in miraculous ways through the love and care of Jesus present in his people.